Looking Back at TE Value in Fantasy Football
Success in Fantasy Football is based on several factors. First, you need to understand the rules of your particular league. Second, you need to understand how deep or scarce talent is at the position in question. There is no larger difference in Fantasy Football than that from the Top 4 at TE to the fifth to twenty-second best at the position when it comes to weekly value. Each year, the experts try to promote an additional TE as the next to join the elite. You might notice I said “Top 4” and not Top 3 as many analysts believe in Fantasy Football by just looking at year end stats. Let’s take a look at weekly value at the TE position in Fantasy Football.
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Methodology is Important
Logan Thomas had a breakout year at TE according to most of the Fantasy Football analysts, but was his year really that good? His 176.9 PPR points was indeed third best among all eligible at the TE position. Thomas finished over 100 points behind 2nd place! Year end totals do a great job of showing us who stayed healthy the entire season but only give us one weak way to look at a player’s weekly value in Fantasy Football. Over the past 2 seasons combined, Thomas failed to score 10+ points in PPR format over 40% of the time. Last year, he failed to reach 10 points in 9 of 16 games played. Five times, he failed to score at least 5 points. Yes, if you miss out on the solid players at the TE position and need to go fishing late, a player like Logan Thomas is better than many but you will give up too many points almost half the time, which is a recipe for losing head to head matchups in Fantasy Football.
Two statistical tools have been developed that give us a look at how a player did on a weekly basis for Fantasy Football. A complete game for a TE is defined as taking 30 snaps. A “Consistent Game” is considered to be 10 points in standard PPR leagues. The weekly value of a player is determined by the Best Ten Rating, which is a statistical tool that combines consistency with big game ability. We want players that can win weeks for us often in Fantasy Football since Fantasy Football is a weekly game!
An additional statistical tool has been added for 2021 after five years of research. This is the Position Scarcity Value, and it incorporates the strength of the Best Ten tool with the rules in your league. Let’s look at one example to see how important your league rules are to the value of a player at any particular position. Travis Kelce is the undisputed king of the TE position in Fantasy Football. His outcome was so awesome over the past several years that he caused a change in how Best Ten and Consistency are computed to make direct comparisons among the elite TE to all WR possible.
Using the concept of Position Scarcity, a Best Ten of 242 for Kelce would produce a Position Scarcity Value of 92 which would be equivalent of QB6 in Superflex or 2QB leagues and better than all QB in 1Qb starter leagues. It would be equivalent to RB3 or WR2 in leagues that start 3 WR or better than all WR in leagues that only start 2 WR. I will explain Position Scarcity in greater detail in another article but it uses the same theory of Value Based Drafting, first suggested by David Dodds at Footballguys, and shows the importance of adapting your drafting strategy to your own league rules. It also shows why you shouldn’t snicker at that player in your redraft 1QB league that takes Kelce in the first round.
Why Best 10?
The absolute WORST statistical tool used by analysts today is year-end statistics. All this does is show who stayed healthy during the previous season. Even when comparing players of equal health, it doesn’t tell us much about what that player did to our Fantasy Football team’s success on any given week. Let’s consider the following example to show you what I mean.
Player X- Scored 300 Points in 2020
Player Z- Scored 280 Points in 2020
Which player was more valuable to your Fantasy team in 2020?
If your answer was, “You didn’t give me enough data,” then you are on your way to having an understanding that it is HOW a player scored the points each week that matters! Now let me add some data and then you can decide which guy you want.
Player X Scored from game 1-16: 50, 50, 50, 50, 40, 35, 4, 4, 3, 3, 3, 2, 2, 2, 1, 1
Player Z Scored from game 1-6: DNP, DNP, DNP, DNP, 20, 20, 20, 20, 25, 25, 25, 25, 25, 25, 25, 25
Yes, this is an extreme comparison but similar comparisons can be made that occur every season. Comparing the Top 12TE in year-end points last season, the Consistency Ratings varied from 35.7% of the time scoring at least 10 points in PPR to 100% of the time. This is too much variance to put ANY faith in year end finishing positions when it comes to determining weekly value.
Best Ten All Stars
The beauty of Best Ten is that it eliminates the need to figure out how partial seasons compare to other players that had full seasons. Because it used a statistical factor to account for rookies and injured players who have fewer games to compare in the two year sample, it does a good job of forecasting a player’s weekly value to your team. Two years is used as a data sample to remove that “Everything Went Right,” or “Everything Went Wrong,” year. Any longer than two seasons is hard to compare because in football three years is a lifetime! This combines a TE consistency rating with his big game ability giving us a unique look at weekly value in Fantasy Football. Let’s take a look at the Best Ten All Stars from the last two seasons combined.
Travis Kelce 242
Darren Waller 233
Mark Andrews 216
George Kittle 210
Zach Ertz 174
Austin Hooper 167
Mike Gesecki 163
Jared Cook 162
Tyler Higbee 162
Rob Gronkowski 156
Jordan Reed 153
Robert Tonyan 153
Since the Best Ten indicates a point difference per game for a player’s weekly value, it shows how top heavy the TE position is in Fantasy Football. You might notice Mark Andrews finished third in Best Ten thanks in part to a Consistency Rating of 81%. You can also see how important “Offensive Philosophy” can be to producing solid performers at the TE position. Jordan Reed, who is not close in talent to George Kittle, was still able to crack the Top 12 in Best Ten replacing the injured Kittle last year. Let’s take another look at how fast the potential falls off after the Top 4 and this shows that IF you miss out on the Big Four you might as well punt the position until much later in your draft. The difference between 4th and 5th best is equal to the difference between 5th and 20th.
TE1 Travis Kelce 242
TE5 Zach Ertz 174
TE10 Rob Gronkowski 156
TE15 Hunter Henry 144
TE20 Eric Ebron 138
TE25 Darren Fells 130
TE30 Kyle Rudolph 114
Just a Snapshot of What Happened
Even the best look at past performances, whether it’s in Fantasy Football or Horse Racing, just tells us what happened and how we need to forecast what will happen in the future. In horse racing strategy decisions, expected pace of the race, racing style and race track conditions, have to be taken into account. When it comes to Fantasy Football, we need to look at what changes happened positive or negative on the offense and the defense. Why the defense when we are concerned with points scored by the offense? A TE who has been getting 7-10 targets a game when his own team’s defense was lousy, might see a big reduction in passing attempts if the defense gets better. Thankfully, when it comes to the Best Ten Rating, the numbers have shown that well over 90% of the players who are of Fantasy Football importance have their Best Ten score for any given year finish within 10% of their Best Ten Rating from the year before. If we don’t have a strong opinion of how a player might improve or regress in the year ahead, we still have a solid base number to make decisions based on already. But the more accurate assumptions we can make for the future the better Best Ten will perform as a tool.
Fantasy Football is a weekly game that needs weekly tools to make accurate predictions for future outcomes. Simply looking at who scored the most points at the end of the season or who had the most points per game is only the first step towards deciding how valuable a player will be to your team. Consistency and Big Play ability are the two most important factors when deciding which players to start on any given week. Best Ten is the best tool I have found that combines those two abilities into one easy-to-compute number. Applying statistical tools to equate partial seasons to a Best Ten number helps us rate rookies, injured players or other players who only started a handful of games over the past 2 seasons. In future articles, we will look at the brand new Position Scarcity Rating, which will allow us to compare the value of one position against another using your unique league rules to develop the best guide.
Repeat after me, “Fantasy Football is a Weekly game and I need weekly statistical tools!”